Hill leaders officially invite Netanyahu to speak before Congress

Congressional leaders have officially invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak before Congress, capping off weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiations.

The invitation, sent in a Friday letter, doesn’t state when Netanyahu will appear on Capitol Hill. But Speaker Mike Johnson has said he expects it to take place before lawmakers depart for August recess.

The letter is signed by Johnson, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries.

“On behalf of the bipartisan leadership of the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate, we would like to invite you to address a joint meeting of Congress,” the four congressional leaders wrote in the letter.

They added that “to build on our enduring relationship and to highlight America’s solidarity with Israel, we invite you to share the Israeli government’s vision for defending democracy, [combating] terror, and establishing a just and lasting peace in the region.”

The formal invite comes days after Johnson and Schumer indicated their staffs were in talks to finalize an invitation. Schumer told POLITICO at the time that “the four leaders are working it out.”

Schumer sparked GOP criticism earlier this year when he called for new elections in Israel and directly criticized Netanyahu in March. But Schumer’s office said earlier this month that he intended to sign the invite after Johnson indicated to reporters that he still hadn’t.

Netanyahu and his government have come under increasing criticism from the Biden administration and congressional Democrats over the handling of the war in Gaza, including the growing civilian death toll. Fifty eight members of the House voted against additional aid to Israel earlier this year — 37 Democrats and 21 Republicans.

Biden himself has also gotten pressure from progressives to do more to push back against Israel, including criticism for not having firmer pushback over Israel’s strike this weekend in Rafah that reportedly killed nearly 50 Palestinians. Netanyahu called the strike a “tragic accident.”

Earlier Friday, Biden said Israel has degraded Hamas’ military capabilities significantly since October, and that the militant group no longer poses a major threat to Israel, while outlining a new three-phase cease-fire proposal Israel has offered Hamas.